After-sales service in Italy

L’assistenza post-vendita in Italia

The maintenance of one's own watch clashes in Italy with the difficult coexistence, in after-sales service, of different realities: authorised centres on the one hand, independent watch repairers on the other. To make one's choices with awareness, one needs to know more.

Last month we interviewed an independent watch repairer, Sergio Bucci, who brought into the spotlight the problems that have been besetting this category for some time (first and foremost, the increasingly obvious difficulty of obtaining original spare parts through legal channels). Continuing our investigation into the sector, we interviewed Mario Peserico, one of the best-known entrepreneurs in contemporary watchmaking, in the August/September issue. General Manager of Eberhard Italia, we interviewed him in his capacity as President of Assorologi, the Italian Association of Watch Manufacturers and Distributors. Below are some passages from the interview, which will not fail to raise new questions. And you, what do you think?

D. In recent times, the Swiss companies you represent have been closing the supply taps on the suppliers, who are also your associates. What is your position on this?

R. Our official position is not there and could not be, as we cannot and do not want to protect one against the other. We are aware of the complexity of the situation. On the one hand, there is the legitimate interest of brands in maintaining control of the repair business in order to guarantee the highest level of technical assistance and at the same time to control the market for original spare parts, which are all too often fraudulently used by counterfeiters. On the other hand, I understand the difficulties of independent watchmakers and suppliers in terms of protecting free competition. A balancing solution will have to be found that preserves the rights of the parties without penalising anyone. This will not be easy.

D. You cannot even reconcile the two sides?

R. We cannot mediate, as each company must be free to determine its own sales and service policy. We have to see, in practice, whether these positions are sustainable or not, also with respect to regulations and what is established in Europe.

D. There remains the question, on the part of the owner of the watch, of being able to freely choose where and how to carry out his overhauls and repairs. As is the case in the world of cars, where an EU ruling obliges manufacturers to sell spare parts for cars to all garages.

R. The problem is that the cultural perception of cars is different from that of watches. For example, when we have to have a 10,000 km service, we take the car to the authorised service station without probably even thinking about it and have all the necessary work done. If we don't do this, we know that the responsibility for any malfunctions, with all the consequent risks, is ours alone. In watchmaking, the risks are lower only from the point of view of safety... Perhaps this is also why the consumer does not care as much about the next steps his watch has to undergo: overhauls, controls.

D. A big difference.

R. Yes, continuing with the automotive comparison, we can say that when you take a car to an unauthorised workshop for repair, you don't expect that if it has been repaired badly, the car manufacturer is to blame. If, on the other hand, the same happens with the watch, the fault inevitably falls on the manufacturer or distributor and they are asked, often demanded, to carry out the subsequent work.

D. Also under warranty?

R. It has happened several times that watches have been opened by unauthorised persons, with a fairly simple risk: that it is no longer clear what the initial cause was and that the watch's situation has worsened as a result of the incorrect intervention. This is a communication problem, which also affects dealers, as it is often they who fail to fully explain these problems to the customer.

D. The seller is often torn between describing the watch to the customer as a hypothetically perfect object and therefore of unlimited durability, and on the other hand recommending periodic overhauls, as would be natural for an 'engine' intended to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

R. In my opinion, correct information doesn't lose watch sales. There might be some customers who don't understand, who underestimate periodic reviews, but if all salesmen said the same things, eventually the message would get through. The problem is that this kind of communication is almost completely lacking.